We talked a lot this offseason about how the Dallas Cowboys would balance the workload between returning legend Jason Witten and emerging stud Blake Jarwin at tight end. If Week 1 showed us anything, it’s that their combined efforts will provide Dallas with solid complimentary production from the TE position in 2019.
On a day where receivers Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb all put up big numbers, there was only so much left for the tight ends. Still, that didn’t stop Jarwin and Witten from combining for a strong game in their own right:
Blake Jarwin: 3 tgts, 3 rec, 39 yds, 1 TD
Jason Witten: 4 tgts, 3 rec, 15 yds, 1 TD
TOTAL: 6 catches, 54 yards, 2 TDs
If those stats belong to one player, “Blason Jarwitten” would have had the 6th-most catches among all NFL tight ends in Week 1. He also would have tied for 11th yards and 1st in touchdowns.
Again, considering the big games had by the Dallas wide receivers, that’s impressive work. It’s especially nice when you look at the efficiency; only one incompletion on those seven combined targets.
While the passing attempts were split down the middle, Jason Witten did get more time on the field overall. According to Pro Football Reference, Witten played on 45 offensive snaps compared to just 27 for Blake Jarwin.
That discrepancy is unlikely to change much this year.
Witten is still the superior run blocker among the tight ends, which is an area where Jarwin particularly struggles. That’s going to give Jason more playing time and more chances to take advantage of play-action calls, especially down in the redzone.
The good news here is that Blake Jarwin, who generated a lot of excitement with his three-touchdown explosion in the 2018 regular season finale, isn’t going to get buried behind the living legend. He will still get looks in the passing game and, as we saw on Sunday, has the ability to make teams pay for forgetting about him.
Even if we just took Jarwin’s Week 1 stats and stretched that over the full season, that’s 48 catches, 624 yards, and 16 touchdowns. That’s enough to put some tight ends in the Pro Bowl.
Unfortunately for Blake and Jason, their dual involvement in the offense is likely to prevent either from making the NFL’s all-star game this year. Unless one starts to take over significantly as the season continues, they will likely split votes and keep each other’s stats meager enough to avoid consideration.
But Jason Witten didn’t come back to football to get a free trip to Orlando. He’s trying to get to Miami and Super Bowl LIV, and having a wingman like Blake Jarwin is going to be a big help in that goal.
If Week 1 was any indication, life could get even easier for these tight ends in the games to come. As teams adjust to the big plays produced in the passing game with the receivers, Jarwin and Witten are going to be seeing more coverage from linebackers as safeties have to focus more on Cooper, Callup, and Cobb.
No, we’re not going to see 400-yard passing games from Dak Prescott on a routine basis. But the modest production from the TE position last week should be fairly consistent, and we still haven’t seen how it looks when Ezekiel Elliott and the rushing attack get going.
So, after all that concern over how Witten’s return would impact Jarwin’s growth, the early returns from 2019 are looking good. Both could have strong seasons, and that only gives further balance and diversified weaponry for the Cowboys offense.